Blog Post

Should I Be Worried About Fatty Liver Disease?

The liver is an essential organ that has various life-sustaining functions. It makes bile, which helps you digest food; it stores iron, makes proteins; and removes bacteria and toxins, strengthening immunity.

However, the liver can also store some fat. When too much fat builds up in the liver, it can lead to fatty liver disease – but who's at risk?

Many people can get fatty liver disease, including those who don't drink alcohol. If you're concerned about your liver, the team at Gateway Gastroenterology helps you understand your risk of liver disease.

Six expert gastroenterologists and hepatologists make up our team, offering expert care for conditions like fatty liver disease.

The facts on fatty liver disease

Fatty liver disease happens when too much fat builds up, causing it to take up 5 to 10 percent of the liver's total weight.

The liver is crucial for many life-sustaining purposes, including removing toxins from the blood and making bile for digestion. When it's damaged, though, these functions are slowed, leading to various health issues.

There are two types of fatty liver disease, including alcohol-induced and non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease. Alcohol-induced fatty liver disease is from excessive alcohol consumption. At the same time, the other form happens from issues like diabetes and obesity.

Many people are living with fatty liver disease and don't know it because they don't have symptoms. However, if you do have symptoms, you may experience the following:

  • Weakness
  • Mental confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen legs and abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Yellow skin or eyes

You may also feel full in the abdomen, especially in the right upper quadrant. You may have only some or all of these symptoms with fatty liver disease.

Who's at risk for fatty liver disease?

Fatty liver disease develops for various reasons, including alcohol use. However, if you don't drink, you might be wondering if you're at risk for the condition.

Although doctors don't know the exact cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, there are a few theories on what may increase someone's risk, and they include the following conditions:

  • Menopause
  • Obesity
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

Older adults are more at risk for fatty liver disease than children, although it can still affect youngsters. You may also be at risk if you take corticosteroids regularly or have been on certain types of cancer drugs.

Toxin exposure and infections like hepatitis C also increase your risk for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Knowing your risk for the disease helps you look for the symptoms and get treatment as soon as possible.

Complications of a fatty liver

Sometimes, fatty liver disease doesn't cause any issues with your health. You may not know you have it because the liver can still function normally.

However, for a small percentage of people, fatty liver disease leads to serious health complications as the disease progresses.

In the first stage of fatty liver disease, the liver becomes inflamed, leading to liver damage. As it progresses to the second stage, scar tissue forms, leading to fibrosis.

In the last stage of fatty liver disease, scar tissue takes over the healthy liver tissue, which leads to cirrhosis. That affects the liver's function and causes severe damage to the organ.

Reducing the risk of a fatty liver

Whether you're at risk for fatty liver disease from alcohol consumption or health problems, there are ways to reduce your risk of developing cirrhosis and other damage to the liver.

Avoid alcoholic fatty liver disease by limiting alcohol consumption or stopping altogether. Along with cutting back on alcohol, you can exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, and take your prescribed medications to avoid fatty liver disease.

Our team evaluates your needs to determine if you require treatment for liver problems, including fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.

Contact Gateway Gastroenterology today to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.Call for an appointment with our office in Chesterfield at 314-529-4900.